Plan your slow tour in Salento
There are so many reasons why
I reached Salento by sailing boat from the sea, just like Aeneas! Do not think it is such a privilege, anyone can do it, renting a charter boat. By the way, spend your holiday on a boat is a great experience, think about it. This way I could see Castro Marina and its little harbour with the traditional (and real) fishing boats. On the shore there are prehistoric grottos, where the Neanderthal man was found, and other fascinating caves. For example Zinzulusa cave, whose name means “cave of the hung laundry”, because of the special shape of its stalactites. By the time of Neanderthal men, in front of those caves there was a huge savannah full of animals to hunt, instead of the sea.
I always say that Salento peninsula is the wedge of Italy and it represents our most southern point. It reaches out to the East, but it is still deeply tied to the Peninsula. Salento is warm like Africa, but agriculture and landscapes are more into the Mediterranean tradition. Here you can find and advanced agriculture, organized with modern rationality, offering typical high value products.
Salento is the perfect destination for your slow tour: as mentioned you can visit it on boat, but also by bike, on foot, on horseback… Look for the olive tree groves and walk through the little streets with their pretty stone walls, where you can find the candid manor farms, or the typical Trulli.
Here you can see wonders like Casteldelmonte and the visionary palace of Federico II. Lecce and Otranto are amazing historical city centers, they were the dock of every Turkish incursion, but also of every link with the Far East. Otranto white walls remind the history of trade with the East, based on bloody massacres and relationships! The harbour Bastions are entitled to the Pelasgians, confirming their presence in the whole Mediterranean Sea. We all come from a unique strain of people that have colonized the lands by the sea!
I have to mention Galatina, homeland of Taranta, that hosts every year a lot of international events linked to this interesting musical prodigy. Taranta is not only a dance, it is a tradition, the legacy of an important archaic culture, and it is also some kind of therapy and an ancient social ritual. Furthermore, you won’t believe the beauty of Santa Maria di Leuca and its streets with all the Liberty style Villas.
I went also to Ugento, important Messapian center. Messapians used to occupy this area of Apulia region before the Romans. We know very little about them, but it seems that they were similar to the Trojans: brave knights, walls builders, great sailors. They built several important harbors, Ugento is the most interesting because of its walls, tombs and Museum. This place reveals us the history of a place that barely accepted to be dominated by the Romans! It has historically represented the famous Magna Graecia: not everyone knows that the people we use to call Greeks used to refer to themselves with the term Hellenic, while the “real Greeks” were here, in Salento.
Then there is Ostuni, white and beautiful. I discovered here the burial-place of the “Donna di Ostuni” (meaning “the woman of Ostuni”), a shaman queen buried here thousands of years ago, very similar and contemporary, wearing the same headgear of the Venus of Willendorf.
I have not seen Taranto, Gallipoli and many other places yet. I really have to go back soon…
Main pic and Otranto pic courtesy of Flickr User Patrick Nouhailler
Zinzulusa cave pic courtesy of Flickr user Michele Vangelista
Ostuni pic courtesy of Flickr User Pululante